The Talent Scout Episode 5: What does good headhunting look like?
4 minutes | Posted 10 March, 2020

Here at Scout we know that recruitment is damn hard. Headhunting in particular, is probably one of the hardest and most time-consuming types of recruitment you can undertake. Which probably begs the question of why do we do it?

Well, let’s back up a few minutes.

Traditionally, recruiters used to look at the talent pool as being made up of passive and active candidates. Active being those that are actively looking at job boards and applying for jobs and passive being the group that are not actively looking but would be open to a new role if it were the right fit and it were presented to them.

We now have come to the point of continual candidates.

There was once a time when people would see a role and company as the place the would work for life. Those days are mostly now a thing of the past. Employees now have an eye on the door at all times to ensure that they don’t miss out on their next big opportunity. Millennials in particular as a group have a tendency to prefer to advance their career by moving to a different organization rather than wait for opportunities for promotion to open up where they are. By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce.

Depending on where you are or who you are this all might terrify you. But it’s also an opportunity, and that’s where we come to headhunting. With so much of the current workforce open to new opportunities once they are presented to them, headhunting is suddenly an extremely valuable tool in your recruitment arsenal!

Headhunting can take many forms, it can be online and high tech, using tools like LinkedIn’s recruiter license or Indeed’s Resume search function or whichever organization has the biggest database of resumes and CVs where you are located. It can also be offline and really effective. Of course, it can also be offline and really creepy and ineffective too. Don’t be one of those people that approaches someone in their place of work, in front of their boss, and tries to offer them a new role. That’s about as useful as yelling at strangers in a park that you have an opening for a new role.

Online Headhunting

Let’s look at the online world first. Effective recruitment here can be quite time consuming and may take a lot of effort to yield results, but there are certain ways to bolster your chances when reviewing an online database or reaching out to people on LinkedIn.

Some recruiters like to spam hundreds of profiles with a message that barely describes the role and is clearly mass-produced. This is useless. If by some miracle it garners you a hire, it will not be the best hire you could get. You need to take time to read the information that the person you’re interested in has on their profile and tailor your message towards them. If there’s something particular in their experience you’re interested in, highlight that to them, and in doing so make it clear that your message isn’t mass-produced and is instead solely for you.

On the back of that be prepared that your candidate has all of the power, you can’t hide things like salary range from them, you can’t get them to bend over backwards and answer hundreds of screening questions. You’ve reached out to them which means you need to meet them where they are, maybe it’s an initial casual phone call so they can ask some questions, maybe it’s a visit to your office, maybe they’ll be interested straight away and ready for an interview. Who knows, but one thing is for certain, they’re not going to fall into a strict recruitment process. Allow some wiggle room for them, they are potentially your purple unicorn after all. Cater to their needs as much as possible because remember they did not seek you out, you sought them out.

Online recruitment tools can be expensive and if you’re not recruiting frequently you may want to reach out to an external company such as ourselves for support on that front.

However, there are other options for you. Offline headhunting can be really powerful and even if it doesn’t make you that initial hire it can be really effective at bolstering your employer brand.

Offline Headhunting

There is a multitude of different ways you can go about Offline Headhunting. The easiest is an employee referral program. Tell your employees which roles you’re struggling to fill and reward them for finding someone who lasts in the role. Your employees know people in their field and probably have quite a large reach to potential candidates you’re not aware of. If you’re not able to reward your employees with some monetary increases there are other options open to you. An example from a client we work with was to buy a holiday for two for one of their employees each year, to be in the running you had to have referred an employee to the organization that lasted a certain period of time and at the end of the year, all the employees that had referred someone were put into a raffle and a random winner was selected. Something creative like that can sometimes appeal to your workforce more than a short-lived monetary gain.

Employee Referral Programs are of course not your only option. Lots of organizations have had great success by hosting some sort of networking event. The easiest example is to get an interesting guest speaker, bonus points if they appeal to your target demographic, and open your office up to the public. Before the speaker begins, have your open roles clearly visible on fliers or on a projector and again do the same when your speaker finishes. It’s incredibly effective because essentially, you’re selling your organization to people by saying ‘look how great we are, we even have this person as a guest speaker’, while also trying to recruit them with your open roles.

Whatever you decide to do and whichever avenue you choose to take, you do need to mentally prepare yourself for the fact that headhunting will take time. No one makes a begin decision like a career move in an instant. So take a breath, prepare yourself for the long recruitment process, and buy your employees a couple of trips to Hawaii.

If you would like to find out more about how Scout Talent can help you improve your candidate attraction strategies in ways like this, reach out to us at or click the button below.

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